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Extraordinary Dogs is a documentary series which follows the work of rescue dogs and their handlers from different countries around the world.
|S01E01||The Power in Movement 1||01/02/2011||The Italian School of Water Rescue Dogs works in association with the country’s other rescue services to assist bathers in trouble. These canine lifeguards must undergo intensive training with their handlers, learning how to swim long distances, pull dinghies with their teeth and even jump out of helicopters. Using their extraordinary abilities, these dogs save over 20 lives a year. The hounds are primarily Labradors, Newfoundlands and golden retrievers, but no breeds are excluded – as long as they meet a specific weight requirement. Extraordinary Dogs follows the Italian canines as they and their handlers are trained in helicopter-based rescue techniques. In New Zealand, specially trained rescue dogs are employed to search for missing people across the country, from the snow-capped mountains of the South Island to the hot pools of Rotorua Numerous fault lines traverse the countryside, including the large Alpine Fault. Regular tremors combined with notoriously unpredictable weather conditions make the risk of structural collapse in New Zealand real and constant. In preparation for such a disaster, rescue dogs are rigorously trained in the mountainous regions. In order to make the grade, pooches and their handlers must undergo a stringent screening process. Finally, Extraordinary Dogs joins musher Clemens Bittendorfer and his team of Alaskan huskies as they take part in Australia’s only snow-based sled dog race. During the race the dogs pull two-to-three times their own bodyweight. Clemens and his team have been racing for over six years and are yet to lose a race. With the pressure to maintain this record, the stakes are high – how will they perform?|
|S01E02||The Mystery of Healing 1||08/02/2011||Maureen has a very special relationship with her collie Max. “He’s changed my life,” she gushes. Two years ago, the once affectionate Max began to keep his distance from his owner. “He just wasn’t happy near me,” Maureen says. The dog would sniff her breath, then touch her breasts. “I instantly knew something was wrong,” Maureen confides. Convinced that she had a disease, Maureen went to a doctor and managed to catch her early-stage breast cancer. It has long been known that certain breeds of do can sniff out cancer in humans. The Cancer and Biodetection Dogs charity has proven conclusively that dogs can smell bladder cancer in the sufferers' urine. As dogs have a sense of smell thousands of times stronger than humans, the charity hopes to use the animals for early detection and treatment, possibly saving thousands of lives. In Texas, the black Labrador Nepal has brought hope into the life of former soldier Jason. Whilst on a mission in South America, Jason was paralysed in an ambush attack. Although initially depressed about his condition, he now counts his blessings. “I’m just lucky to be alive,” Jason says. “Tough days are now so much easier with Nepal around,” he adds. Labradors are said to be amongst the best breeds for helper dogs, as they are intelligent, affectionate and eager to please. The dogs are trained for two years before allocation, and have learned over 40 distinct commands. To help Jason, Nepal can open doors, retrieve food and pick items off the ground. This not only increases Jason’s independence, but provides him with a strong sense of companionship. “He improves my spirits so much –who could ask for more?” Jason asks. Belgian epilepsy sufferer Christine has lived with her condition for more than 20 years. Her Labrador Maybe acts as a life-saving early warning system for her ailment. When Christine is having a seizure outside her home, Maybe has been trained to get help and alert passersby. When Christine suffers an attack inside her ho|
|S01E03||Myth and Reality||15/02/2011||At the University of Otago in New Zealand, psychology researchers are running experiments to find out if dogs really can detect human emotional messages. Over the course of a year, a team of students has put 58 dogs of all shapes, sizes and breeds through their paces. Some have been shown images of people expressing raw emotion, while other dogs have been given a specific verbal instruction from humans displaying a range of expressions. Can man’s best friend really gauge his master’s emotions? Can a dog sense impending death? Scamp, a miniature Schnauzer which lives at The Pines nursing home in Canton, Ohio, raises the alarm when he senses that one of the senior residents is about to die. He does this by barking and pacing around the room and refusing to leave the pensioner’s bedside. To date, he has seemingly predicted no fewer than 40 deaths that have occurred at the home. The nurses believe he offers comfort to the residents and his warnings allow family members a chance to say a last goodbye. But are Scamp’s extraordinary abilities actually just down to a spate of coincidences? Finally, in Hungary, Péter Pongrácz of the University of Budapest has studied the meaning behind a dog’s bark. Peter and his team share what their fascinating research has revealed about how dogs really communicate with each other.|
|S01E04||Crucial Hearing||22/02/2011||In the Canadian province of Manitoba, the National Service Dogs charity trains animals to help people with special needs. In 2004, a Jack Russell terrier named Bingo was given to Dwayne and Mandi Hein by the charity. The Heins’ young son, Cole, was born three months premature. This led to him developing apnoea, a condition in which the sufferer can stop breathing with little or no warning. The fact that their son had to be watched at all times soon proved exhausting for the couple. “I averaged four hours’ sleep a night,” Mandi says. In desperation, the Heins approached the charity for help. Bingo, an already practiced service dog, was given weeks of intensive training with a CD of Cole’s breathing. From this, she learnt the pattern of the child’s respiration, and now barks when his breathing becomes irregular, warning the family of an oncoming apnoea episode. This security means that the Heins can live a relatively normal life. “She’s one of the family – she’s like one of the children now,” Mandi says proudly. Over in Santa Rosa, California, Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) trains puppies to be helper dogs. Founded by Snoopy creator Charles M Schulz, the charity’s aim is to use Labradors to help people with disabilities, allowing them greater independence. Starting at a young age, the dogs are given a strict six-month training course to become hearing dogs. Canines can hear a much higher pitch range than humans and can locate noises up to ten times further away. Due to the muscle structure in their ears, dogs can also accurately pinpoint the origin of sounds. All of these qualities make them superb helpers for hearing-impaired people. After learning over 40 different commands at the CCI, each dog is assigned to an owner. Marion Morgan lost over 90 per cent of her hearing due to an infection. The shock of this sudden disability meant that Marion shut herself away from the world. However, her life was transformed when CCI gave her a black Labrador named Pic|
|S01E05||Above and Beyond Loyalty||01/03/2011||Dogs share 99.8 per cent of their DNA with grey wolves. Despite being domesticated around 15,000 years ago, genetically canines are predisposed to loyally serve and protect their packs. A dog will naturally treat the individual that feeds and disciplines it as its parent. As human masters often fill this dominant role, our species has built up a strong bond with canines. This human-canine connection is put to good use to herd other animals, as demonstrated by 15-year-old Amy and her border collie, Mist. Collies make ideal herders, and they have been bred to understand a wide array of human commands and whistled signals. The level of devotion that exists between owner and dog makes a vast difference to the effectiveness of such a partnership. Having overcome the hurdles of being a young lady in what is predominantly an older man’s pursuit, Amy’s excellent junior amateur record means that she and Mist are now able to compete in the English National Sheepdog Trials – a stunning achievement for such a young pair. Amy has little doubt that this incredible success comes from the affectionate bond she shares with Mist. “She’s my best friend,” Amy says. The MIRA foundation in Quebec is a guide dog training facility that specialises in breeding ‘Labernese’ dogs – a crossbreed between a Labrador and a Bernese mountain dog. Widely regarded as having the best characteristics of both dogs, the animals are bred and trained to work with autistic children. Sufferers of autism have impaired social interaction and are prone to lash out when confused or uncomfortable, but it has been proven that dogs can have a calming effect on their owners. By relying on the animal’s innate sense of loyalty, autistic owners can benefit from a tangible improvement in their social skills. Autistic teenager Marc-Antoine is noticeably calmed by his new dog, Tartin. By listening to Tartin’s heartbeat, Marc-Antoine also sleeps much more soundly than he did in the past. “It calms him almost instantly,”|
|S01E06||The Mystery of Healing 2||08/03/2011||Type 1 diabetes sufferer Philippa has lived with the potentially lethal ailment since the age of ten. As her body does not naturally produce insulin, her blood sugar can suddenly plummet to dangerously low levels. “I’ve been found unconscious in a number of different places,” Philippa explains. When she was 18 years old, doctors told her that it was doubtful that she would live past the age of 21. Now 36, Philippa credits her Yorkshire terrier, Poppy, for her survival. Trained by the Cancer and Bio-detection Dogs charity, Poppy uses her sense of smell to detect when Philippa’s blood sugar is dropping. She barks to let her owner know that it is time to take action. As dogs have 40 times more nasal receptor cells than humans, they can pick up on the infinitesimal changes in scent that indicate possible medical danger ahead. “She’s helped me in ways I didn’t know were possible,” Philippa says of her faithful dog. Whizz, a large Newfoundland, is an experienced water-rescue dog. When he is not needed for lifeguard duty, Whizz plays with children with learning difficulties, acting as a calming influence on them. The Bristol-based charity Newfound Friends takes one such youngster, 10-year-old Christopher, out every weekend to learn new water-based rescue scenarios with Whizz. “He gets so much out of it,” says Christopher’s mother, Rachel. “The dogs are probably four or five times the size of him, but he’s got no fear at all,” she adds. Although Whizz has incredible strength – he can pull a boatload of 12 people along with his teeth – Newfoundlands are well known for their easy-going and loyal temperaments, making them ideal candidates for working with children. In Hobart, Tasmania, the Ron Barwick minimum security prison houses 125 male inmates. Three of these prisoners take part in the Pups in Prison programme. Labradors and golden retrievers are bred to help people with physical disabilities, but they are given to the inmates for the first 18 months of their lives. As|
|S01E07||Instinct: The Sixth Sense 1||15/03/2011||Diesel is a Staffordshire bull terrier owned by the South African Endangered Wildlife Trust’s carnivore conservation programme. Diesel helps the programme’s rangers track cheetahs by locating their droppings, or scat. By analysing this scat, researchers can learn about the cheetah’s sex and diet, which is vital when estimating the population size and distribution. This work has become all the more vital in recent times, as the South African cheetah population has halved in the last 25 years, while its human population has almost doubled in the same time span. On average Diesel can find the cat droppings 30 times faster than a human. The days are long and arduous, especially in the heat of the plains. “Physically it’s very challenging,” Shannon, Diesel’s handler, explains. The dog also has to be trained once a week to maintain his keen sense of smell. Every time he successfully locates some scat, he receives a rubber ball as a reward. “Diesel absolutely loves his job,” Shannon says. Blessing has been registered blind since he was five years old and has owned Tommy, his guide dog, since he was a teenager. “Tommy’s had a very positive, wonderful impact on my life,” Blessing says. Tommy has given Blessing the freedom to move to New York to pursue his dream of being a professional musician. “Without Tommy, I would have dealt with New York with a cane, which is a terrifying prospect,” Blessing says. He received the dog from Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a charity that specialises in training golden retrievers to be guide dogs. The charity evaluates its new puppies when they are four weeks old. Roughly half of the dogs that are bred are ultimately chosen to be trained as guide dogs. After this, the dogs are assigned an instructor, who uses food and other positive reinforcement to train them. Interestingly, the loyal dogs are also taught to occasionally ignore their owner’s commands, especially if the order they are given puts either them or their master in danger. By enc|
|S01E08||Critical Sight||22/03/2011||30-year-old Marie Aborno has been blind since birth. Thanks to the companionship of her guide dog Axis, Marie leads a full life and works as a physiotherapist. Border collie Axis has been trained by the French Guide Dog Association, and he has helped Marie reach a level of independence heretofore unimaginable. This programme follows Axis and Marie as they go about their everyday activities, including Marie’s intensive marathon preparation sessions, and also takes a peek at some of the training that takes place at the French Guide Dog Association. Border collies are used at Johannesburg International Airport to chase flocks of birds from the runways. Collisions between aircraft and wildlife – known as bird strikes – can cause serious damage to machinery and endanger human life. Two of the dogs who work at the airport, Scott and Tina, have become invaluable safety tools. One of their advantages is that they present a completely humane way of dealing with the problem. While the birds perceive them as predators and fly away instinctively, Scott and Tina are trained never to go in for the kill. The Japanese Guide Dog Association’s Kanagawa training centre is one of the largest facilities in Japan for raising guide dogs for the blind. New puppies are bred and born at the centre, and the highest pedigree standard is essential. Meet Labrador retrievers Opal and Hotaru as they face the final challenges on their way to becoming working guide dogs.|
|S01E09||A Study of Strength||29/03/2011||La Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont Blanc in Switzerland is the toughest international sled dog race in the world due to the topography of the mountain it covers. Each year the race brings together the best mushers in the world. Together with their Alaskan and Siberian huskies, they race over a 900km course. This episode follows several of the teams as they prepare for the race and the challenges it holds. Discover why the husky is the top dog for both stamina and endurance, and how they are perfectly built for rough terrain and extremely cold environments. Over in Queensland, trained odour detection dogs are used to sniff out vicious but tiny invaders. The dogs are mostly Labradors that are trained to accurately detect fire ants. In favourable conditions, they can pick up an ant’s scent from dozens of metres away. The dogs work in extremely warm temperatures and have to work in very short shifts so as not to overheat. Elsewhere this week, Dr Tom Smith explains how he has found a new way of using dogs to track ringed seals in the Arctic. Unusually, the dogs he uses are not large, thick-coated huskies, but Labradors. They are trained to find ringed seal lairs, and in the right wind conditions they are incredibly accurate. Tom and his remarkable team of Labradors are based in Quebec, and this programme joins them as they prepare for their next research expedition to the Arctic.|
|S01E10||Instinct: The Sixth Sense 2||05/04/2011||The Military Dog Centre in Austria specialises in the training of rottweilers as working dogs. The rottweiler is considered the breed of choice for working dog roles in Austria, and it is prized for its versatility and strength. Over 1,500 have entered service since the centre was set up, and they are trained either as sniffer dogs, protection dogs or search-and-rescue dogs. Before pups are put into service they have to show that they can pass the rigorous training regime and prove that they can operate well under pressure. Kaya is a small black Labrador who works with trainer Lori Spence in the Avalanche Rescue Dog programme. Kaya helps people who get trapped on the mountain, and she also assists in lift and gondola evacuations. Kaya is a highly versatile animal who can ride on the back of snowmobiles, on the chair lift and on Lori’s shoulders when she is skiing. Kaya and her fellow rescue dogs are followed as they are put through training exercises in the mountains, working around helicopters and locating missing people. The Windance working farm in northern New York State prides itself on its extensive fibre herd. The sheep, goats and alpacas that live on the farm are bred for their exquisite wool, and they are watched over by Maremma sheepdog Kaida. Along with her two puppies and 15 other working dogs, Kaida guards the herd from predators such as wolves and coyotes. Kaida not only looks after her puppies, but she also trains them in the basics of guarding while carrying out her own vital duties on the farm.|
|S01E11||The Unassuming Hero||12/04/2011||The Sussex Police working dogs and their handlers are in charge of patrolling a county that is home to 1.5 million people. With such a weighty responsibility on their shoulders, these are no ordinary pooches. Each dog must complete a specially designed training programme before graduating as a ‘general purpose dog’ who is able to track, chase and detain suspected criminals. Newly capped members must then prove what they have learned on the streets in real-life scenarios. Their handlers are also put to the test as they must protect themselves, the public and their animals from any dangerous hounds that might try to retaliate. Meanwhile, Paddy, an English springer spaniel, is trained in a more specialised field – sniffing out explosives. His senses are primed to detect as little as one billionth of a gram of an explosive substance. In practice, this can mean saving the lives of thousands of people every day. Handler Colin takes Paddy to a training event where they must prove their mettle at two separate venues. Firstly, they visit St David’s Cathedral in West Wales, and then a 15,000-capacity rugby ground. Can Paddy smell the minuscule amounts of explosive materials that have been planted on site? The PDSA Dickin Medal is an award for outstanding bravery, and the animal equivalent to the Victoria Cross. Nine-year-old Treo, a black Labrador, is the latest canine to be honoured with the prize in a special ceremony at the Imperial War Museum. While on a tour in Helmand province, the army dog was able to alert his unit to two bombs that had the power to destroy a number of lives. Now in retirement, Treo and his handler, Dave Heyhoe, still help out at the 101 Military Working Dog Support Unit in Aldershot. Currently, protection dog Bronco and tracker hound Sully are working towards applying for a new posting to Afghanistan. Are they good enough to follow in Treo’s tracks?|
|S01E12||The Uncommon Nose||19/04/2011||In 2008, Malaysia established the first ever unit dedicated solely to detecting pirated discs, bringing canine experts Paddy and Maddy over from Northern Ireland to help. Trained by FACT in the UK, the dogs work closely with the Malaysian government. The pooches have the ability to sniff through locked steel doors in order to point authorities to stacks of pirated movies. This programme joins black Labrador Paddy on patrol. His previous work has seen him uncover 35,000 pirated DVDs, and he is trained to specifically sniff for polycarbonate, which is used in the manufacture of the illegal discs. Sam, a springer spaniel, is one of the UK’s leading fire investigation dogs. Sam has been trained to sniff out potential fire accelerants in the aftermath of an inferno. He is able to smell and detect 16 different substances, even those that are odourless to human senses. Sam has worked on over 60 fire investigations, and his keen senses have even led to the arrest of an arsonist. Seven-year-old Eros and his handler Hidehiro Murase work for Japan’s Rescue Dog Trainers Association. As part of a tested and approved rescue dog team, the pair can be called upon in the event of a disaster anywhere in the world. This programme joins Eros and Hidehiro as they take part in a regular training exercise.|
|S01E13||The Power in Movement 2||26/04/2011||In California, the American Kennel Club hosts an annual competition, which is visited by nearly 3,000 of the world’s top canines. Dogs and owners from all 50 American states are in attendance, so the competition is stiff. Each year, the strongest five contenders from each breed compete for the title of Top Dog. One dog vying for the crown is Masher. He is a papillon spaniel – a breed that is renowned for its agility. Will Masher best the competition and be crowned winner? Once a year, on the beautiful island of Honolulu, Hawaii, a talented group of defence dogs and handlers gathers for the Hawaiian Islands Working Dog Competition. This challenging contest summons teams from the army, police, marines and air force to compete for the title of Hardest Hitting Dog. With tests of their agility, stamina and obedience, these pooches represent some of the most talented working dogs in the forces. Watch them demonstrate the skills that have saved many human lives in the past. Labrador Lola is a real canine hero. Together with her handler Cristian, Lola helps find victims of earthquakes all over the world, as well as people who have gone missing in the wilds of her native Argentina. Lola can detect alive and dead bodies from hundreds of metres away. Her speed and agility also mean that she can be much quicker at finding people in trouble than humans can. Witness her impressive skills as she trains in a densely forested area just outside Buenos Aires.|